We celebrate Columbus Day in the United States in commemoration of the first landing of Europeans that is recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Columbus indeed was himself a visionary and an exceptional navigator that used all of his talents and nautical expertise to mount the excursion financed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1492. The Spanish kingdom had just completed the Re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, which in effect subjugated Moslem invaders that had occupied the peninsula since 711. Ever since that year, the Spanish kingdoms had been trying to rid their country of Islamic peoples as well as Islamic religious influences. For the most part after the better part of 750 years had passed, the influence of the Moors, synonymous with Islam had been eradicated through persecution, wars and religious intolerance throughout most of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella successfully managed to become, the Catholic Monarchs that jointly ruled Spain and its dominions, and they were ready to expand their claims over uncharted Atlantic waters that would become the landing spot for Christopher Columbus first voyage in 1492.

When Christopher Columbus navigated his small fleet in a westward route from Spain in search of a oceanic route to India, he quite honestly became not only the first documented European expedition to visit the New World, he also became the first explorer to accept the notion that the world was indeed a spherical body, that could be navigated across it’s circumference and contrary to popular belief, ships would not catastrophically sail over the “ledge” of the horizon. In this perspective, Columbus was an explorer on the same level and scale of importance as the flights of the Mercury and Gemini space programs in the early 1960’s that first realized the true, “orb” status of the earth from a dimension only seen from space. More than 500 years earlier, Columbus without the benefit of Mission Control and an orbital spacecraft had already proved to the world that the Earth’s shape was round, long before John Glenn and Alan Shepard.

We don’t think much today about Columbus’ extraordinary achievement in providing a maritime route to the new world. While, the location he discovered was not India, it was however the nascent source of colonialism in the Americas as well as the birth of Catholicism in the Western hemisphere. Frequently, we neglect to remember that the Catholic faith was until this period a European and Eastern entity. Columbus changed this and gave Catholicism its first hold on the New World in 1492. Ever since this time Catholic missionaries have spread the Gospel message, along with multicultural colonialism throughout both North and South Americas.

Columbus really doesn’t get the proper amount of respect and recognition he really deserves.  Over the past 500 years we have erroneously just taught that he “discovered” America on his voyage of 1492. In reality he proved more than just the possibility of global travel, he established in effect, the roots of the modern world and its countries through his establishment of a Western Spanish empire and the foundation of the principles of religious freedom, later to be experienced in the United States. Additionally Columbus helped establish international trade routes, provided scientific verification of navigational theories, helped the spread of Catholicism throughout the world and provided a source of new resources for a European continent that was becoming overpopulated since the Middle Ages.

As we celebrate Columbus Day this year, let’s recognize Columbus for the true importance and stature he deserves. Contemporary writers that attempt to reconstitute his accomplishments tend to dwell too much on his later failures and unintentional results of his voyages (such as the induction of smallpox to the western hemisphere)! Columbus for the most part should be considered the true father of international diplomacy and transoceanic trade of manufactured goods. Quite frankly, without his explorations and voyages, the global village of the 21st century might possibly have never come to existence or even successful development.  So finally, every time you consume fruit that is grown so where else in the off season, wear clothing that is manufactured in a foreign country or even travel to a Caribbean vacation destination…it is because of the foresight of Christopher Columbus, the financial support of Ferdinand and Isabella and the continued missionary activities of the Catholic Church. Really, it is a small world after all!

 

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